Venugopal Dhoot, U.S. firm eye $4.5 bln gas block sale

Last Updated: Tue, Mar 05, 2013 10:16 hrs

By Denny Thomas and Sumeet Chatterjee

HONG KONG/MUMBAI (Reuters) - Anadarko Petroleum Corp and Indian billionaire Venugopal Dhoot have launched the auction of a 20 percent stake in a Mozambique gas field that could fetch $4.5 billion, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The Rovuma offshore field is a hot property after recent discoveries boosted Mozambique's gas reserves to around 150 trillion cubic feet, enough to supply world number one importer Japan for 35 years. The east African country is expected to eventually compete with Australia and Qatar as a major provider of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Asia.

Last year Thai state oil company PTT Exploration and Production PCL trumped Royal Dutch Shell Plc in a hotly contested battle for Cove Energy Plc and its 8.5 percent of the field. The $1.9 billion price tag for Cove implies the stake now on offer could fetch about $4.5 billion.

Dhoot, who controls consumer electronics to mobile-phone services conglomerate Videocon Group, is leading the process and has hired Standard Chartered and UBS to handle the sale, the sources added.

Both banks declined to comment.

First round bids are due on March 14 after an information memorandum on the sale was sent to potential bidders in early February, one of the sources said.

U.S. oil and gas explorer Anadarko is the operator of Mozambique's offshore Area 1 with a 36.5 percent interest, while Japan's Mitsui & Co Ltd <8031.T> is the second-biggest holder in the block with a 20 percent stake.

India's state-owned refiner Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd and a unit of Dhoot's Videocon Industries own 10 percent each, while PTT has an 8.5 percent interest and Mozambique's state-owned ENH 15 percent.

Shares in Videocon Industries, which has a market value of $1.2 billion, rose as much as 4.6 percent on Tuesday, outpacing a near 1 percent gain for the Mumbai market index.

"The move to monetise its holding in the Mozambique gas block to reduce debt is a positive trigger for the company and the stock," said Neeraj Dewan, director at Quantum Securities. "That's a good asset and it should get a good valuation."

Graphic on Mozambique's gas consortia, blocks


PetroChina, Shell and Exxon Mobil Corp are among suitors expected to submit indicative proposals, sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

India's state-owned Oil & Natural Gas Corp and Oil India are considering a joint bid for the 20 percent stake, two separate sources said. The companies would hire an adviser once they decide on bidding, one of the sources said.

Shell and Exxon declined to comment. PetroChina officials were not available for comment. ONGC Videsh head D. K. Sarraf declined comment, while Oil India Director Finance T. K. Ananth Kumar said all options were open for the company.

Videocon is seeking about $2.5-$3 billion for its 10 percent stake, though sources warned buyers are unlikely to pay a huge premium over what PTT paid.

"PTT paid what was a good price, but to get to a $3 billion price tag is difficult," a person familiar with the process said.

A spokesman for Anadarko did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday, while Dhoot declined to comment.

Dhoot, who ranks 38th in Forbes' India rich list with a net worth of $1.5 billion, paid $75 million for the Rovuma 1 stake in 2008. His company is expected to use some of the sale proceeds to pare debt of more than $5.5 billion.

Anadarko CEO Al Walker last month told an earnings conference call that the company was looking to sell a 10 percent interest in the block, taking the firm's stake to 26.5 percent.

Together with ENI SpA , which owns an adjacent field and is cooperating on building gas liquefaction facilities, Anadarko hopes to ship out first LNG in 2018.

(Additional reporting by Prashant Mehra, Anna Driver, Andrew Callus, Charlie Zhu and Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Michael Flaherty and Michael Urquhart)

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